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Sunday, October 02, 2011


by Linda Lerner
Rat, I thought, seeing that dead animal,
could have been a small squirrel or large mouse
by the cellar steps where I put out food the night before
for two black cats I feed, but
kept coming back to rat

flung it out loud at
a white shirted tie-flung-over-his shoulder guy
ahead of me rushing thru the heavy metal subway turnstile
his hand flying back against it, smacked me in the face
blood  squirted from my nose; people offered tissues
he tossed out  sorry like a black rose,
I’m in a hurry vanishing  down the steps....

the rat outside my building was still there next morning.
I walked around it, picked up the cats’ plates
put them on the other side and quickly ran in
to wash my hands...first one rat then 
hundreds, soon a whole town infected dying,
recalling  Camus’ The Plague 

all you really need is one rat....
saw  homeless fear  in a former colleague’s eyes
a decades old best friend of  his boss, a man trying to 
show higher ups he’s keeping costs down, 
get a promotion, told him, you’re no longer needed....
over 50 is no longer needed

I kept hoping the rat would be gone each morning
that a neighbor or the part time super 
would get rid of it...

I’ve never been good at getting rid of rats 
once at a job, in my bed, my home
put up with it  longer than I should have
than anyone ever should..

the fourth morning the rat was gone from my building;
even if it was a small squirrel, as my neighbor thought,
I saw a rat...others were seen
on the terrace of  the Cipriani club at 55 Water Street
looking down at the crowd  protesting thousands of firings
looking down at scared, hungry, out of work 
for months, a year , or more, others
drinking champagne and looking down 

a crowd armed with mental pesticides  gathered around Wall  Street
quickly grew ignoring boundaries, spread 
across bridges and state lines;
In less than a week they outnumbered the 1%
looking down 

Linda Lerner's Takes Guts and Years Sometimes (New & Selected Poems) is published by New York Quarterly Press.